Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Improper Convertibles. Mind if My Mind Wanders?

I'm recovering my equilibrium after the gypsy feel of vacationing across multiple destinations. I'll admit that I love the anonymous, nomadic, anything-is-possible freedom that I feel while traveling, but nonetheless, I'm happy to be home. There are big goals to tackle here, and honestly, even just during a week, things have begun unraveling in the homestead. I've got piles of mail to cull, errands and to dos, and my air conditioner started leaking some fluid last night that buckled the parquet floor tiles into splintered teepees.

I'd mentioned awesome convertibles in my last post before vacation. The article I linked did not mention the 2005 Ford Thunderbird , but they should have. I'm sure the 10-best folks had their reasons, but as I traveled the roadways, it was that sleek machine that repeatedly caught my eye. It has that rare quality of looking good from every angle. So often a goofy backend or lousy silhouette disappoints a car that made the angels sing at first view. The Thunderbird's styling was uniformly tasty. Even if it has a slightly European feel compared to the traditional T-bird ideal, it was blissfully appealing whether in my rearview, through the passenger window or as I tailgated. My favorite among the few I saw was a metallic turquoise/sea foam color that I don't see on the website. Probably custom. Ford should add it.

One of the upsides of returning home was I got an e-mail from my friend (whose new novel I pimped in the same pre-vacation post) asking whether I'd be interested in writing a little book review. The magazine concerned is called The Improper and claims to be "a view askew from Manhattan to Montauk." But looking at the cover, doesn't it seem almost staid to cover the Hamptons by reporting on shiny hotties with names from Page Six? Anyhoo, no staff member had time to read the book before deadline today thus creating an interesting opportunity for me. Being the fiction writing type, I have accumulated zero in the way of press clips, so I was eager to get one. I'll take any validation, really, but more on that later. To date, my only other presence in a periodical was a candid photo topping an article about a hair salon I visit that appeared in a freebie gay weekly in Chelsea. You can't recognize the head's me without knowing, but since it's not entirely the kind of thing I could send to my grandmother without significant editing and explanation, it's probably for the best.

I don't know whether the approach I took for the Improper's minireview- yes, even 200 words requires an angle- suits their skew, but I liked it. My friend seems happy with it, and it wasn't too much to write compared to the quantity of blather I produce here on a semi-regular basis. My problem is not producing quantity, it's the time to make it usable. Those two paragraphs, not styled like my fiction, but for publication I hope, took me at least four hours. I merely begin with writing. The enduringly painful part is when I revise, re-edit, reread, repeat. Back to my validation whine.

There are established career writers who are not terrific craftspeople. But once you've got a publisher and audience that accept your style, you can concentrate on creating other aspects of your story like plot and pace. I tool and retool my style, because I don't have anyone to tell me to stop, that it's good enough, that I could safely transition to improving my craft as I go. My fiction style is different from what's here. Quite. Probably why I enjoy the relative looseness of this venue. Oh, I haphazardly correct for basic grammar, punctuation, and typos, but I don't agonize over sentence variation, paragraph structure, parallelism, sequencing, word choice and all the other possible permutations that allow a page of fiction to consume hours of concentration.

I still hope that I'll become better at what I do, turn a corner, and experience streamlined creativity as opposed to this microscopically self-conscious process. How I'd love to focus on storytelling, far beyond this phase of endlessly dissecting the page's every squiggly bit of detritus. I understand that the writing must be a fitting vessel for the story, but some people seem to deal with it effortlessly like great jazz musicians improvise. They don't worry about whether they're playing triplets, their minds are on the tune. Not me. Not yet. So I must get back to work. As my old boss used to say: Enjoy Your Life and Goodbye.

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